Kentucky was frighteningly good against an overmatched opponent Monday night. West Virginia played a similar team and was arguably even more impressive.
They weren’t playing on the same court-or even the same country-but the Wildcats and Mountaineers put on performances so thorough that they appeared to be in competition with each other. On a light night as the college basketball season enters its quiet stage following the November tournaments, Kentucky drilled Arizona State 115-69 in the Bahamas, while WVU hammered Manhattan 108-61 in Morgantown.
The Wildcats dominated the Sun Devils in every way and were ahead by 40 early in the second half. A 57-30 rebounding advantage, 54.2% shooting and six players in double figures were some of the numbers that defined UK’s effort, as was the 34.2% field goal defense and the 33 assists on 44 made baskets.
De’Aaron Fox notched the second triple-double in school history (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). Malik Monk scored 23 points. Isaiah Briscoe chipped in 20. The domination was methodical and complete, and while ASU is going to struggle this year, this result will undoubtedly start to kindle some talk that the Wildcats could go on a winning streak similar to the 2014-15 team.
West Virginia looked rather ordinary its last time out when Temple took down the Mountaineers to win the NIT Season Tip-Off event. Poor Manhattan was on the other end of a rebound situation this time, as Bob Huggins’s team was relentless.
The Jaspers are a team that already struggles with turnovers, even when not playing against a constant full-court press. Indeed, WVU forced a mind-boggling 39 turnovers and, like Kentucky, built a 40-point lead early in the second half.
Huggins also was again distributing minutes to seemingly anyone who could find a current or old Mountaineer uniform, with 12 players playing double-digit minutes (and one that didn’t-Elijah Macon-a starter). Even after losing some significant contributors from last year’s team, it’s clear there is little drop-off with West Virginia this year. In fact, the question now might be: are this years’ Mountaineers even better?
- Butler continues to be one of the most impressive teams of the early season. The Bulldogs improved to 7-0 by winning at Utah 68-59. The undefeated record includes wins over a pair of Pac-12 teams now, plus SEC and Big Ten teams and a blowout of the Bucknell team that won at Vanderbilt last week. As for the Utes, it’s perfectly fair to question whether an early season schedule loaded with lightweights and non-Division I opponents certainly didn’t help in prepping for this one.
- It’s just not getting any easier at Missouri, as LeVelle Moton’s North Carolina Central team picked up a 62-52 win over the Tigers. Patrick Cole was the best player on the court with 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for NCCU. This one was ugly; Mizzou shot 25% for the game, while the Eagles weren’t much better at 36.5%. This also won’t go over well in Columbia, even as NCCU appears to be back to being a contender in the MEAC, has won four in a row and gave Ohio State a run earlier this year.
- The ACC/Big Ten Challenge opened up with home teams winning both games. Florida State dealt Minnesota its first loss of the year, holding on for a 75-69 win. Northwestern then fought back to defeat Wake Forest 65-58.
- Tulsa snapped a three-game losing streak to city rival Oral Roberts, with the Golden Hurricane topping the Golden Eagles 79-65.
- It was a light schedule overall, but busy enough for two buzzer-beaters: High Point’s Anthony Lindauer hit a 30-footer as time expired as the Panthers fought back from a 20-point deficit with 9:36 left to defeat Morgan State 62-61. That was HPU’s only lead of the night. Also: Brown’s Tavon Blackmon scored on a layup with four seconds left to give the Bears a 91-90 win over Bryant.
- The night starts with No. 7-ranked Xavier with an interesting non-conference game against North Dakota State (6:30 p.m. Eastern, FS1). It’s in Cincinnati, where the Musketeers are so tough, but the Bison are one of the favorites in the Summit League and the only team to defeat Arkansas State so far.
- The ACC/Big Ten Challenge hits its stride with six more games. The biggest-name one-the one ESPN has been hyping for the past week-is Michigan State at Duke (9:30 p.m., ESPN). The best one could be that one, or perhaps Pittsburgh at Maryland (7 p.m., ESPN2) or Syracuse at Wisconsin (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
- Rhode Island begins a big week that should provide a lot of insight on if the Rams are up to their No. 21 national ranking, starting with a trip to Valparaiso in a game that deserves a national television audience.
- Princeton continues its tough non-conference schedule that includes a lot of games away from Jadwin Gym, this time facing VCU in what should be a very entertaining game.
- Villanova plays at Pennsylvania as Big 5 play continues.
- It’s a big night of college basketball in Nashville. Unbeaten Tennessee State gets its toughest test, but stays local to do it when it goes just a couple minutes south to play Vanderbilt. At the exact same time, Lipscomb and Belmont resume their heated Battle of the Boulevard rivalry.
- Another city battle has Tulane heading uptown to take on New Orleans.
- Texas-Arlington goes to Texas for the second straight year (8 p.m., LSN), where the Mavericks have unfinished business after a tough overtime loss a year ago.
- Houston looks to move to 6-0 but must hit the road to do it when it plays LSU.
Have a great Tuesday.